Sunday, 11 January 2009

Shop Girl - 1 Customers -1

I fill the window with ex-display picture frames.
I’m clearing them for peanuts.
A woman comes in and points vaguely at one.
“I want the frame for a pound,” she says.
“It’s scratched,” I warn her.
“What size is it?”
“Five by seven.”
I hand her the frame.
“Now I measured the photo,” she says, running her finger along the glass. “It’s six this way and eight across.”
“Then you want a six by eight,” I say.
“No, that’s too big.”
“But...” I frown. “You said you measured it as a six by eight.”
“I’ll take a risk,” she says, pushing the coin into my hand.
I want to call after her, tell her she’s making a big mistake.
But they say the customer is always right.
A smart young man in a cashmere coat and pink shirt comes up to the counter.
“I want a screw-in push-in bulb please,” he says, confidently.
“A screw-in push-in bulb. 60 watts.”
“It either screws in or pushes in. It can’t be both”
“Oh. I’ll just have a 60 watt one then.”
“O-kay,” I say, smiling slightly. “A 60 watt screw or bayonet?”
He shrugs.
“There isn’t a big difference is there?”
But again, the customer is always right.
Another woman is after a specific light shade.
I tell her we are unlikely to order from that company anymore.
“We want to clear what we have,” I explain, “because we’re closing.”
“You’ve been closing down for a long time,” she says, looking at me over her severe black glasses.
“Uh... well...” I’m aware it’s dragging on but it’s not like we can shove all these lights under our bed. “I suppose it has been a few months.”
“No,” she says. “You’ve been closing down for at least five years.”
Five years! And to think I hadn’t realised.
Now really, how can all customers be right if half of them think the flowery light above my head is Art Deco?
That’s just silly.
Which is not the same as saying they are silly.
Most of them are wonderful and fantastically loyal.
Even the occasional good humoured barterers can be fun. Barterers who choose to ignore price labels, even when they are big, red and have ‘half price’ scrawled across them.
Like the south London plasterer who has finally narrowed his choice down to two chandeliers.
“Come on. Two hundred for both,” he pushes. “I’ll give you the cash now.”
“I’ll buy them myself for that,” I say.
“Come on love, two hundred or I’m going.”
“I’m not arguing anymore.”
Mum once told someone to keep his money and buy some crisps.
“Come on love, we’re having fun!”
“Two sixty. Take it or leave it. ”
“You’re difficult. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“I feel sorry for him.”
“He’s newish,” I say.
“I don’t want to know what happened to the last one!”
“He went to Vietnam.”
That makes him laugh and I realise I’m not helping my cause.
“I bet he did. I’m going to join him in a minute.”
“Don’t be so rude,” I say.
Nowadays when customers push me too far I usually suggest they go to Argos; they really hate that.
“Come on love, let’s not muck about,” he insists. “I’ll give you two ten, bulbs included.”
He sticks his hand out. I’m not shaking it.
“260,” I say.
We stare each other in the eyes.
Most of the time, it’s a pretty level playing field in my shop.
We win some. We lose some.
It just wouldn't work if the customer was always right.

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